Letter to Dan Goldin

November 27, 1996

Daniel Goldin, NASA Administrator
NASA Headquarters
Washington, DC 20546

Dear Dr. Goldin:

I am writing in direct response to a letter which was faxed to our offices from Laurie Boeder, NASA Associate Administrator for Public Affairs (appended), denying our request for continued press accreditation to cover the launch of Mars Pathfinder.

My credentials as a space journalist and consultant "expert," recognized by millions, literally go back decades, including several years as a network science advisor to Walter Cronkite at CBS; Kevin Sanders at CNN; editor at Star and Sky Magazine; regular contributor to the CBC Radio Network (300 affiliates and ~10 million listeners) -- as well as serving for several years as a former consultant to NASA itself. Based on these credentials, I find Ms. Boeder's actions, if not her stated reasons (". . . [during your accreditation to Mars Surveyor] you sought and gave interviews to the news media about your views on Martian geology . . ."), completely arbitrary, narrow-minded, and clearly discriminatory -- not only against myself, but the content of our coverage of NASA. Such official discriminatory practices are clearly not in the best interests of either NASA or yourself, violating among other things, a fundamental First Amendment right of free expression. A lot of people, who have been looking at the Agency of late -- particularly, in terms of its handling of the so-called "Cydonia question" (with which Ms. Boeder, from her letter's allusion to my non-sanctioned comments re "Martian geology," clearly had most difficulty) -- will doubtless now be saying, "Hoagland seems to have been right all along; NASA is afraid of the Cydonia question . . . for some reason."

What makes Ms. Boeder's actions most ludicrous is our acquisition of a C-SPAN tape of your own statements, made on the identical issue of "the Face on Mars," and just a few days before I was summarily barred from covering the second launch to Mars for making similar comments.

Especially ironic: it was you who actually introduced the "touchy" subject of "the Face" to your other Freedom Foundation panelists that night -- holding it up as a shining example of NASA's "new policy of openess on controversial scientific subjects." You even went so far as to say, " I'm not going into wild and crazy things . . . [but] there are taxpayers who believe this . . . we have to be somewhat sensitive . . ."; Dr. Goldin, if NASA's attempted outright censorship of our freedom to report ALL aspects of the complex issues surrounding missions going back to Mars -- by banning my presence at the Cape -- is "NASA being sensitive" on the Cydonia question . . . then I'd hate to see the Agency's handling of issues and individuals it didn't agree with!

What looms here is ultimately paradoxical: your comments were volunteered only hours after I'd asked Wes Huntress, at the post-launch Mars Surveyor press conference, essentially the same question. You answered:

". . . there's two ways that NASA could approach this [issue of 'the Face']: one, we could say: 'You don't know what you're talking about; we know there couldn't be a civilization on Mars, and therefore we'll never take a picture of that spot.' But, there are taxpayers who believe this. So one of the things we are going to do on our next mission is, when the spacecraft goes over that spot, if we have the right pointing, we'll try and take a picture, and scientifically show what we have found. And I think we have to be somewhat sensitive, especially when we're dealing with government money, to recognize some of the issues that the public has [as its priority] . . ."
So, the real question now becomes: which NASA are we dealing with -- Dan Goldin's "open NASA," or . . . the paranoid, very fearful agency portrayed by Laurie Boeder?

One of the other important points you brought up on C-SPAN that same night was the issue of "scientific peer review."

It might surprise you to learn that "Cydonia," as a scientific problem, has also undergone repeated "peer review "-- both in terms of journal publication of key evidence (primarily, independent computer analysis of the 20-year-old official NASA Viking images); and, independently, a detailed, year-plus academically-based Study of the epistemological process behind several of these independent scientific investigations of the NASA photographs themselves.

The first journal publication of a formal analysis of the key NASA Cydonia images appeared in "the Journal of Applied Optics"in 1988: a paper authored by Dr. Mark Carlotto, published in the May issue. This analysis presented the first quantitative refutation of the casual JPL statement, made initially in 1976, that "the Face" was a mere illusion, that it was nothing more than "a trick of light and shadow." I heartily commend it to your attention.

The second document you should personally review is "The McDaniel Report": Dr. Stan McDaniel's intensive, year-long Study of all of the independent analyses relating to the issue of potential "intelligently-designed artifacts on Mars."

Dr. McDaniel (whom, incidentally, I have never personally met) is a philosopher, an epistemologist, an historian of science -- and former head of the Philosophy Department of Sonoma State University, in Northern California. In 1992, just before Mars Observer departed, this eminently qualified academic first became interested in the thorny question of "the Face on Mars," after hearing Carl Sagan discussing the upcoming Mars mission and the controversy of "the Face" on NPR; it seemed the perfect (if classic) problem in "the epistemology of science" for his students in philosophy.

McDaniel quickly discovered (after contacting all of the "independent investigators," and many of the key NASA personnel at JPL who had played a meaningful role in the original Viking mission), that the issues surrounding an ultimately scientific determination of an "artificial" or "geological" model for "the Face" were far more complex than he originally imagined. Thus began McDaniel's year-long Study, eventually reaching over 200 published pages (and over 300 references), investigating the multiple attempts outside of NASA (over the course of the 20 years since Viking) to scientifically explain "the Face on Mars" (and the equally-enigmatic, geometric "pyramids" around it).

As an established academic, well-versed in the proper process and procedures of main stream science, McDaniel was in a perfect position to act as the critical "peer review" of these non-NASA efforts to address the question of "the Face"; his specific background as an epistemologist made him uniquely qualified to assess the quality of any actual science behind the "Cydonia question."

Surprising, to critics who have continually dismissed "the Face" as any serious "scientific problem," in his final Report (sent to NASA Headquarters, 8/21/93), McDaniel expresses his--

". . . appreciation for what these researchers [have] done, and the underlying integrity of their work . . . I [find] that the occasional faults in their work [are] far outweighed by the solidity of the data and their responsiveness to the needs of what is, after all, the first study of its kind in history.
On NASA's scientific approach to the same "thorny problem," Dr. McDaniel unfortunately was far less sanguine:
" As my study of the work done by the independent investigators and NASA's response to their research continued, I became aware not only of the relatively high quality of the independent research, but also of glaring mistakes in the arguments used by NASA to reject this research. With each new NASA document I encountered, I became more and more appalled by the impossibly bad quality of the reasoning used. It grew more and more difficult to believe that educated scientists could engage in such faulty reasoning unless they were following some sort of hidden agenda aimed at suppressing the true nature of the data [emphasis added] . . ."
Ms. Boeder's impossibly bad decision, in the wake of your rejection of these past NASA practices on the question of "the Face" and a clear enunciation of a revised "open" NASA policy on this non-trivial issue, has cast an unfortunate cloud over NASA's entire credibility (if not your own) on the Cydonia question; if only in appearances, Ms. Boeder's actions (as opposed to your statemnent of official NASA policy) seem now only to confirm Dr. McDaniel's worst suspicions . . .

All of which raises once again the obvious question:

If NASA won't allow independent coverage of (and comment on) pre-launch activities surrounding its currently-returning "Mars missions" -- how can Americans trust this same Agency to accurately report what it discovers vis a vis "Cydonia" . . . when they arrive at Mars?

In hopes of an equitable resolution of this unfortunate situation, consistent with your own C-SPAN position on "Cydonia" and the Constitution, I await your earliest decision.


Richard C. Hoagland
Founder, The Enterprise Mission

P.S. Should you desire a personal briefing on the actual, extensive, published scientific foundation for our continuing questions vis a vis Cydonia, I (and I'm sure Dr. McDaniel, as well) would be only too happy to oblige.

CC: www.enterprisemission.com